Amazon describes Death Magic by CS Quinn as a Short Read, in this case, it has 79 pages. Quinn lists this novel as one in the Thief Taker Series. I found the term “Thief Taker” intriguing and it took several pages of reading before I found out the difference between a private detective and a “Thief Taker.” This novel was published in 2015 in the UK. Non-UK readers will discover English language items unique to the UK. For me, new learning adds value to the reading experience. In this novel, new learning is about more than just language as Quinn writes of a location, lifestyle, and history unfamiliar to the general non-UK reading public.
Nancy, a maid in the house of Fitzgilbert was dead. Fitzgilbert was distraught because many people blamed his wife, Elizabeth, for Nancy’s death. Fitzgilbert hired Charlie Tuesday, a “thief taker.” For reasons the reader will have fun in discovering, at the scene of Nancy’s death, possibly a murder, a silver thimble is missing. Fitzgilbert, Nancy’s employer feels sure that the person who finds the thimble will find the person who killed Nancy. This is where the first mystery appears. Charlie insists he is a thief taker. He succeeds when he finds the thimble. He does not care about finding a murderer, even if the death was a murder. A reader may find this division of labor strange; I did.
Charlie the investigator or thief taker does not usually work outside London. Now he is looking for a thief in the villages. He may have to modify his walking habits because Charlie doesn’t like wearing shoes.in an England with unpaved streets and roads, Charlie likes the feeling of the earth. This was England of the Roundheads and Cavaliers. When I reached this point, it was time for me to go to Wikipedia to get a feeling of an English period of history not firmly fixed in my memory.
It was a time of superstition. A shoe placed up and inside a chimney was supposed to protect the house from haunting. How does dancing a Maypole relate to religion? I did not know. Nancy worshipped in secret at a Baptist church, not a Puritan one. More stuff to check in Wikipedia. Fitzgilbert and Elizabeth worshipped in a Puritan church and Elizabeth spoke “in tongues.” Villagers accused Elizabeth of being a witch.
Charlie, like any detective in modern crime shows, knows people in low places. Readers will learn something of low places in England of long ago. Jewelers know when stolen jewelry is resold. Modern readers may not consider a thimble jewelry; in this story it is considered so. Charlie also has a physically huge friend, one Charlie helped get prizefights to get extra money. John will accompany Charlie to a prison to interview Elizabeth about the thimble and possible murder and will be a valuable ally in helping Charlie fight their way out of prison. It seems wardens liked to jail visitors who didn’t respond favorably to requests for money prior to visitor departure. Corruption is an uncomfortable staple at all times and societies.
Charlie with his enforcer friend John will have to work fast. The two found out from Elizabeth’s vicar that Elizabeth had been declared a witch and sentenced to burn the day following Charlie and John’s visit. Now the story picks up the pace and rewards the reader with a few surprises before a surprising conclusion. This is a good story that will appeal to amateur historians, mystery fans, students of early Christianity and those interested in anthropology. There are no offensive sexual descriptions. There are no extended descriptions of violence but the burning of witches is not a non-violent activity. (Yeah, double negatives, I know). I gave this a rating of four Amazon stars because I liked the chronological setting descriptions.
Death Magic sells for USD 0.99 and is a free read through Kindle Unlimited.